macondo2019 after a tough take-off…

Workshop participants Reyna Grande, Macarena Hernández, Olivia Meña, Amelia María de la Luz Montes and partner, Liliana Valenzuela, Fan Wu, and Macondo board member Pat Aldrete with Sandra Cisneros and Ruth Behar at Liberty Bar 

“I’m from Pasadena, but I lived in LA for one year,” said the Lyft driver as he turned down a three-lane road toward LAX. “And in just one year—I saw 15 accidents.” He paused. “Yeah, 15 accidents in one year. And you know what? Thirteen of the accidents were caused by Asians.” He accelerated as the light turned green. “Yeah. Asians. Thirteen of the accidents were caused by Asians.” He paused. 

I expelled a breath. “I’m Asian.”

“You are?” The driver turned around to look at me. “I didn’t know that. I’m so sorry. I really am. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to say that. I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, don’t say it. Try not to think it,” I said, without looking up from my phone.

 “I’m really sorry.”

We sat in silence till he halted his car at the airport. I collected my suitcase and headed toward the terminal. The Lyft driver’s statement was one more encounter with racisim that I’d experienced since moving to Los Angeles. Everyone around the globe fostered racist thoughts, but people elsewhere seemed to filter their thoughts more. In Los Angeles, I had heard more such comments than anywhere else that I’ve lived.

By the time my flight landed in San Antonio, Texas I had shed the driver’s words and was ready to soak in five nights of writing, community, and friends. Macondo2019 was a fuller retreat than it has been for the past few years after founder Sandra Cisneros sold her home in the city and moved to San Miguel de Allende.

This year, the retreat was in the outskirts of the city at the new Texas A&M University, and I was in a “veteranas” workshop that was being led by Sandra Cisneros herself along with her friend Ruth Behar; the workshop was filled with friends from a decade ago including Liliana Valenzuela, Fan Wu, and Olivia Meña, when I attended my first Macondo. The four days were packed with three-hour workshops—in which I received thoughtful feedback for my On Belonging memoir—and morning taco runs as well as evening gatherings, including several at Liberty Bar, one of Sandra’s favorite San Antonio jaunts. 

Liliana Valenzuela, Norma Liliana Valdez, and me wearing Poets Against Walls t-shirts brought to San Antonio by Emmy Pérez – at our farewell breakfast; photo by Anel Flores